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February 15, 2009

Frisk the 15th!

There's no better way to beat the winter chills than by doing your monthly self-exam! Today is the day!
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January 18, 2009

I Think This Makes It More Than Fifteen

I have volunteered to be a Breast Cancer 3-Day Ambassador again this year and last week the event publicist I have been working with asked me if I wanted to appear on NBC5’s Sunday news show as a spokesperson. I hesitated at first because it meant a very early drive into the city, but Randy convinced me to go for it with a promise to accompany me. As it turned out, when they knew he was going to be with me they wanted to interview him, too, so we both got some camera time.

The last time I did this was in August just before the walk. That day was warm and sunny, and we didn’t have to be at the studio until 8:45 a.m. This time we had to be there at 5:45 a.m., and there was no sun or warmth to be found as we headed downtown at 4:30 a.m. We parked relatively close to the NBC studio, but it was still a cold, dark walk through the all but silent and deserted city streets this morning. We sloshed through icy slush and stepped carefully over treacherously snow-covered sidewalks to get to the same “secret door” we entered last August.

Just like last time, we waited in the NBC “greenroom” with the other guests (a “fashion expert and author” and a representative of Hawthorne Mall) and some NBC staff members until it was time for us to go on. In August, the anchor (Ellee Pai Hong) came to talk to us before the interview, but this time we were on our own until it was time for us to walk to the news desk area and take our seats. As we rounded the corner from the backstage/control area to the studio area, we saw three tall chairs set up directly across from the news desk surrounded by several cameras and lights. An employee told us to choose a seat as she pointed us toward the chairs. As soon as we were in the room, everything began to speed up. Alex Perez, the anchor who interviewed us this morning, walked over to where we were sitting, sat down on his chair, and started reviewing his notes and asking me questions about myself and the walk. At the same time, crew members miked Randy and me. The woman who was miking me was obviously frustrated with the tangled cord of my mike, and she was still desperately trying to untangle it as the countdown to on-air began. She got it untangled and clipped on, and then another crew member ran up to re-tuck the front of my shirt just before the cameras started rolling.

As it did in August, the interview itself went very quickly and I hardly remember what Alex asked or what I answered. I do, however, remember the wrong answer I gave when he asked me about registering for the walk now. I told him it was a good idea to register now because it takes six to eight months to train and fundraise for the walk, but I was supposed to say it takes four to six months. Oops!

Here is a link to a video of the interview on YouTube. It was recorded from a TV so it's a little fuzzy but you can get the idea. If you are thinking about participating in the Breast Cancer 3-Day here in Chicago or anywhere else, it is a good time to register. If you are in Chicago and would like to join The Chest Nuts, we would love to have you. Randy and I will be crewing rather than walking this year, but it sounds like quite a few of The Chest Nuts will be walking again. You can join our team by clicking on the link on this page. You can also find out information about the walk in other cities from that page. And if camping isn't your thing and you would rather just make a donation, you can do that, too.

January 15, 2009

Frisk the 15th!

Today is January 15th! It's not too late to resolve to do a monthly breast self-exam...just make sure you start today!
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January 06, 2009

A Few More Minutes

And in the New York Times, no less.

Update: As far as I can tell, the story will be in the print copy on Thursday, January 8th on page E6.

Update: There is an audio interview, too. To listen to the audio, just look on the left hand side of the screen right under the picture in the article. You will see a box that says "Multimedia" with a play button and my name just underneath that. You can listen to me, then Dave Shack, and then just let it loop and listen to us both over and over and over again. Just what you want to do, I know. :)

December 15, 2008

Frisk the 15th!

It's the 15th of December already! Take a break from your holiday preparations to do your monthly self-exam!
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November 03, 2008

An Ode to Running

I never thought I would create anything called An Ode to Running. Until this year, I never imagined that I would run anywhere, let alone that I would like it. The last time I ran was in high school, during my two-season stint as the tennis team’s second string exhibition singles player. (Which means I was a really bad tennis player. But I was in it for the social benefits and the letter, so it was all good.) Our daily practices included lots of drills and “scrimmage” matches…and running. I don’t know how far we ran, but as far as I was concerned it was a long way. I hated it.

Other than tennis practice, the only other time I ran was in gym class. I hated that, too. It just seemed so pointless to run in circles around the track just for the sake of running.

When I told my trainer last winter that one of my goals was to be ready for the Komen 5K Race for the Cure this fall, however, things changed. The seed was planted when I watched Blake and my friends run in the race last October and found myself wishing that I could do that. Once I set that goal, my trainer convinced me that I could run the 5K and that I would actually be able to run one sooner than that. And I did. In fact, I have four different 5Ks and a 10K under my belt so far.

There have been many times in the past few months when I have laughed at the idea that I have suddenly become a “runner.” Because even though I’m slow, I’m running. And I still feel that every single step I take on the road is another step farther away from cancer.

I was talking to a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago about the whole running gig. Like me, he has always been rather anti-running. He wanted to know exactly what I like about it and how I find the motivation to do something so mindless and pointless. As I began explaining to him what I get out of it, I realized how important it has become to me. I have gotten to the point where I can’t imagine not running, which is a far cry from dreading the running drills at tennis practice.

Part of the reason I like it so much is certainly the shot of endorphins it gives me. I don’t really experience what some people describe as the runner’s high, but I definitely feel a big shot of positive at the end of a run and for a long time afterward. I find that when I run on a regular basis, I sleep better at night and think more clearly during the day. It turns out that running is a time of solitude and meditation for me and sometimes it’s the only time in the day when I can be all alone. I can almost predict how far I have run by my mental state at any given moment during a run. I start out thinking about things and solving the problems of the world (or at least of my world) and I end up in a semi-meditative state. It probably goes without saying that the health benefits are one of the biggest motivators for me. Every single time I am out there running, I think about how far I have come from last year, from being bald and weak and sick and unable to walk from the couch to the kitchen on some days. I am thankful for the good health that allows me to take each step of the three or four miles of my chosen course. I run because I can, and because if I am running, I am not giving in to cancer and I might even be doing something that could prevent a recurrence.

When I first started running this year, I loaded up my iPod with driving rock and roll and rap music, but have discovered that my favorite running music is the PodRunner mixes by DJ Steve Boyett. You can find them on iTunes if you search under “podrunner” or on Boyett’s website. These are great hour-long mixes of all kinds of music at a consistent BPM. It’s much better for my pacing and endurance if I run to one BPM rather than a collection of different beats. I save the fun songs for races, and have both 5K and 10K mixes timed so that the really inspirational songs come on just before I cross the finish line.

Race season has wound down here in the Midwest for this year, but I have my sights set on another 10K next April. I have even been tossing around the idea of doing a mini-triathlon next summer. (I think bar studying might be triathlon-training prohibitive, so that might have to wait for awhile.)

Not long ago I saw a story on the Today Show about an incredible woman named Karen Newman. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, but continued training for and finished a triathlon while in treatment. She chronicled her experience in a video diary that you can see here. I am simply amazed and absolutely inspired by her strength and fortitude. I simply cannot imagine being able to do something like that in the midst of chemo.

Because these posts are always more fun with visual highlights, here are a couple of pictures from the Susan G. Komen 5K Race for the Cure in Chicago. The first one is from last October, and the rest are from this past September. What a difference a year makes.
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Komen Race for the Cure 2007

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Komen Race for the Cure 2008

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Endorphins at work

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Finish line in sight...and I know! What's with all the smiling and running, right? I especially like the expression of the guy in green over my left shoulder. He's looking at me like, "What is up with that chick and the smiling?"

August 17, 2008

2008 Chicago Breast Cancer 3Day

Last weekend was the Breast Cancer 3Day and it was an amazing experience. It was everything that people had told me it would be…and more. I have been reluctant to sit down and write about it because I don’t think I can possibly do it justice. I can say that if you have the opportunity to take part in this kind of event, you should definitely do it!

The first day we walked along the North Shore, through the Botanic Gardens and then down Sheridan Road along the lake. We covered 21 miles that day and ended up at our camp site in Des Plaines. My sister had some trouble at the end of the first day, so she and I spent most of the evening in the medical tent while she was hooked up to an IV. Once she was feeling better, we headed to our tent where we got little sleep thanks to the noise from the busy road 100 yards or so from our heads.

The showers are contained in six 18-wheelers and are no more than a small cubicle with a thin curtain partially covering the opening. There are sinks with running water outside of the shower trucks, but other than that the entire weekend was spent using porta-potties. Because you have to drink so much throughout the walk (to avoid an IV) you end up using them a LOT, and we all found that after half a day it doesn’t even bother you anymore.

By the second day, most of my teammates were developing blisters on their blisters, and we were all tired of the food provided at the pit stops and at the meals. I didn’t get any blisters the entire weekend, but we decided that was probably fair since I had cancer. The second day we walked through Arlington Heights, Mt. Prospect and Prospect Heights. We encountered a few minutes of rain and some clouds in the morning, but other than that the weather was great all weekend. Saturday night I gave my speech and then it was off to our tents again for another night of bad sleep.

On the third day we were taken into the city by bus and then we walked south along the lake shore through Lincoln Park, down Michigan Avenue, and we ended at Soldier Field for the closing ceremony.

Despite the bad food, poor sleep, and aching feet, however, we had a fabulous weekend. Randy and I are planning to crew for the walk next year, and most of my teammates have said they want to either crew with us or walk again. It really is worth all the aches and pains!
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The Chest Nuts

August 05, 2008

Milking Our Fifteen Minutes For All They Are Worth

Saturday was media blitz day for The Chest Nuts. Not only did we appear on the local NBC morning news, but there was an article about us in the local paper, too.

Rachel, Diane, Karen, and Lesli and I met at my house at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday morning and were on our way at 6:45 a.m. We were supposed to be at the NBC studio no later than 8:45 a.m. On a light traffic day, it takes about an hour to get into the city so I thought that would give us plenty of time to park and walk. As we pulled out of my driveway, one of my passengers reminded me that this weekend was Lollapalooza in Chicago. Then I began to get worried about making it on time. And sure enough, we hit traffic early in the trip. It was a good thing I had a car full of people to crack jokes about it, because I may have panicked if I was by myself.
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At NBC5 Studios in Chicago

Despite the traffic, though, we made it downtown with time to spare. We used the extra time wisely with a stop at Starbucks, and then it was on to the studio. Rachel had some guests staying with her from out of town and they accompanied us into the city, so we had them snap a couple of pictures in front of the NBC building before we went in. Just before we knocked on the door, Kristi joined us on the plaza.

Per my instructions, I knocked on the “secret” entrance to the studio and the door was opened by one of the crew members. We were greeted by a staff member, shown the bathroom and the coffee maker, and then we were told to wait. The back of the studio was nothing like I had pictured it in my mind. There was no glamour or greenroom or craft services or hair and make-up crew. Instead, it was just a long narrow room filled with pieces of equipment and a few computers for the crew. There was a microwave and a coffee maker in one corner and there were a few stale doughnuts lying on a counter. There was also a refrigerator covered with 4 x 6 photos of various celebrities. Soon after we arrived, the producer introduced himself to us and explained that we needed to be quiet since the set was just on the other side of the curtain we could see at the end of the room.
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NBC5 Studio

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NBC5 "Greenroom"

The first thing we all did was use the bathroom, which was about 5 feet behind the green screen used in the weather broadcast. As we were standing there, we saw the shadow of the morning weather woman appear on the other side of the screen and adjust her jacket. We were whispering…okay, maybe we were laughing a little bit, too…about how funny it would be to go up behind the screen during the broadcast and make shadows on the back of it, when suddenly we heard the disembodied voice of the producer call for “QUIET in the back!!” I felt like I was in middle school and had been talking in class as we all clamped our hands over our mouths and tried not to laugh. Eventually we were able to laugh about how terrible it would have been if we had gotten kicked out of the NBC studios within 5 minutes of our arrival.

They let us stay, however, so we settled in for a 45 minute wait. Just before the show started, crew member Kevin appeared with a mike and asked me to thread it up my shirt. After I did that, he attached it to my collar and then attached the transmitter to the back of my skirt. (Note in the picture how Karen is watching to make sure Kevin’s hands don’t stray where they are not supposed to. Thanks for watching out for me, Karen!)
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Getting miked by Kevin

Another morning guest was waiting in the “greenroom” with us. He was dressed in a lab coat with an embroidered label that told us his name followed by the letter “MD.” He had a metal briefcase filled with small opaque white plastic bottles labeled with masking tape. He opened the briefcase and set it on a table next to him, and then pulled out a contraption that looked like a small laser gun. Always friendly, Rachel soon engaged him in a whispered conversation and discovered that he worked at the Smell and Taste Research Foundation and that he was there to talk about how much people smelled. The laser-like piece of equipment was a smell-meter that he could use to detect smells in a room.

Dr. Smellgood (names have been changed to protect the innocent) was one of the first guests on the show, so we got to watch his segment from the back room. As we listened to him describe how smelly people are, we began to steal glances at one another and soon we were laughing hysterically. Even one of the crew members was chuckling and shaking his head. The title of Dr. Smellgood’s segment was “The Stinky Truth” and he discussed how much stinkier it is in bars these days now that we don’t have the smell of cigarette smoke to cover up the stink of people—mostly men. He said that men smell worse than women (and attributed that to their less acute sense of smell) and that men’s rooms rank right up there with pig pens and bars as the smelliest places. His solution to the problem? Axe. Let’s just say that TV is not Dr. Smellgood’s calling. He was definitely nervous, and we all began to wonder if he was actually even a doctor as he stuttered and babbled his way through his demonstration of his smell-meter.
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Dr. Smellgood and his "smelpers"

I had a lot of sympathy for him, however, because I was definitely starting to get nervous at this point. By this time I realized that there wasn’t going to be any preparation…no one had said anything to me about what the newscaster (Ellee Pai Hong, for those of you in Chicago) was going to ask me, and in fact we had only seen her very briefly when she came back to talk to one of the other guests. (And by the way, she and the weather woman were teeny tiny. They were probably no more than 5 feet tall in their spike heels, and both had hips and waists no bigger than a minute. Since they look regular size on TV, we all began to wonder if we would look like an Amazon walking team standing next to them.)

The segment just before ours was called Firefighter Fitness and consisted of a group of Chicago firefighters demonstrating exercises on the plaza outside the studio. As they neared the end of their demonstration, Kevin came and hustled us outside for our appearance. As we stood there waiting for the producer to tell us where to stand, Ellee Pai Hong came over to us, introduced herself, and then asked me one question about the walk. She wanted to know if we had just done one already this year (she was confusing it with the Avon 2 Day walk). I noted that she was probably thinking about the Avon walk and explained to her the difference between that one and the Breast Cancer 3Day. (I had spoken with a 3Day PR rep a couple of days before to do some media training and luckily she had mentioned that this is a source of confusion, so I was ready with my answer to that question.) After that, Ellee was called back to be on air and that was it—that was all the preparation I got!

After that things happened pretty quickly. The producer placed us next to Ellee and the weather woman, they did a final weather forecast, and then we were on. Ellee was so nice and kind and asked just a few questions about the walk. At one point in the middle of one of my answers the camera man moved very close to us and the camera was within inches of my face. I can tell exactly when that happened when I watch the interview because I lost track of my answer and had to search for a word as I felt the camera get closer and closer to me.

Luckily Randy recorded the show, because I had no memory of what she asked me or what I said right afterward! I think the whole thing lasted maybe 3 minutes, although I completely lost track of time, as well. After we were done the producer asked us to stick around to be in the “crowd shot” at the end of the show, so we did.

After that we all had breakfast and went shoe shopping as we tried to fight off the paparazzi looking for photo ops and autographs.

Oh, wait a minute…that might just have been in my dreams. (We really did have breakfast and go shoe shopping, however!)
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Breakfast at Nordstrom

YouTube documentation can be found here. And see the July 24th post for a link to another article that appeared on Tuesday in the Spartanburg-Herald about Alison and Mandy!

May 07, 2008

What's On Your Playlist? (Part 2)

I got such great reactions when I posted a list of my workout songs a couple of months ago that I thought I would post a continuation of the list today. You guys gave me some great suggestions for additions to the list….I’d love to hear more if you have them!

Playlist 2
4 Minutes—JT and Madonna
The Devil in Me—Kate Voegele
The Middle—Jimmy Eat World
Cupid Shuffle—Cupid
Mercy—Duffy
Me Enorama—Juanes
Dance and Shout—Shaggy & Pee Wee (Thanks CGF!)
Hips Don’t Lie—Shakira
Girlfriend—Avril Lavigne
Spice Up Your Life—Spice Girls
Do It Well—Jennifer Lopez
Flathead—The Fratellis
See You Again—Miley Cyrus
I Want You To Want Me—Cheap Trick
The Call—Backstreet Boys
Lovestoned—JT

April 13, 2008

368 Days

That’s about how long it has been since I first discovered a lump in my breast. As I wrote recently, just a few days after I found the lump I had breakfast with my kids, my parents, and my brother and his family following a local 5K/10K race in which my brother and my nephew ran. I had not seen a doctor yet, so I had not told anyone about it on that Sunday morning. I thought about it all morning, though; little did I know how ominous it would turn out to be.

Today—368 days later—I ran in that same 5K. While I didn’t set any records for the fastest time, I ran the whole thing. (Except for the moment when I had to stop to tie my shoe!) Today during breakfast, instead of thinking about my mortality and instead of feeling frightened about the ramifications of finding a lump in my breast, I thought about how lucky I am to be able to run and about how lucky I am to get to spend that kind of time with my family.

My world is a very different place than it was 368 days ago. In some ways, it is a darker and more difficult place. After all, the fear of a recurrence or metastasis is always lurking in the corner (and sometimes in the front) of my mind. In many ways, it is a better place. I am probably healthier right this minute than I have ever been before in my life. And I appreciate each day and each person in my life in more ways than I did a year ago. I can’t go so far as to say that having breast cancer was a good thing, but I’m still here, so it wasn’t the worst thing.

My brother and my kids all ran in the race this year, too. Despite the snow on the rooftops this morning and the balmy 32 degree temps (Hello, Chicago in April!), it was an exhilarating morning for all of us.

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Next stop—the Y-Me Race to Empower on Mother’s Day!

March 25, 2008

What's On Your Playlist?

My 3-Day and 5K training is going well and I continue to feel stronger every day. I still don’t know if I’m actually going to be able to run the whole 5K, but I’m going to try. I have been using the Couch to 5K training program (from coolrunning.com) to train and I found a podcast by Robert Ullrey on iTunes that guides you through each week. Once I’m done with the day’s running program, though, I switch over to my own music while I continue my 3-Day walk training.

I have had a great time compiling a couple of different playlists for walking and running. Sometimes a really great song will come on and I find myself wanting to sing or dance along. Am I the only one who experiences this? Do you ever have a hard time not singing along when you’re on the treadmill or out walking? People would think I was insane if I suddenly started singing “Apple Bottom jeans, boots with the fur” or “Goody two, goody two, goody goody two shoes” in the middle of the treadmill line so I usually control myself and save it for the car.

I’m going to post some of my playlists here in case you want to add any of these to your own list. I’m always looking for good training music and I’d love to hear some of your selections, too. Feel free to share!

Playlist 1
Sweet Talking Woman--ELO
Feedback—Janet Jackson
Elevator--Flo Rida
Hung Up—Madonna
SexyBack—Justin Timberlake
Check Yes Juliet—We the Kings
Stacy’s Mom—Fountains of Wayne
Whenever, Wherever—Shakira
Grace Kelly—Mika
Let’s Get Loud—Jennifer Lopez
Kiss—Prince
Low—Flo Rida
Goody-Two Shoes—Adam Ant (What? It’s a good workout song!)
Soak Up the Sun—Sheryl Crow
Island Boy—Baja Men
Proud Mary—Tina Turner
Pour Some Sugar On Me—Def Leppard
Fat Bottom Girls—Queen
Teenagers—My Chemical Romance
Dani California—Red Hot Chili Peppers
Shut Up and Drive—Rhianna
Have a Nice Day—Bon Jovi

Stay tuned for more…

March 17, 2008

No Backing Out Now

It's official! I registered Karly, Blake, Matthew and myself for a local 5K today.

Now I'm committed. Here's hoping I make it!

*************************************************************

Thank you for registering for the Run thru the Hills 5K/10K, 2008. Your Registration is confirmed, and you may use this email as your Registration Confirmation.

Confirmation Code: 00092453
Time of Transaction: 3/17/2008 11:16:12 AM

This will confirm your registration for Run Thru the Hills on April 13, 2008. Packet pick-up will be available on Saturday, April 12th, at the Running Depot, 30-E North Williams Street, Crystal Lake. Race Day packet pick-up begins at 6:30am. "No refunds are issued for races or special events".

February 18, 2008

Running Away

Back in October I purchased a one-year family membership at a local gym. This isn’t the first time we have been members of a gym, but the last time was a bit of a disaster since no one (read: Randy or I) ever actually took advantage of the membership and went. I always found it easier, faster, and much more convenient to do my fitness activities at home or in my neighborhood. During my cancer treatments last year, however, I began to think about my health in a much more pointed and specific way, and at some point I decided that I needed to step up my health regime once I was able to do so. When I joined the gym a few weeks before my last treatment I was completely bald and feeling very weak. I had not been able to do much of any kind of physical activity for awhile because of how awful I felt most of the time and it was hard for me to imagine that there would come a time when I would feel good and strong again. But I signed us all up and then started looking forward to the time when I could actually use my membership card.

My first visit to the gym came in November about a week after my last chemo treatment when I attended a yoga class. As I wrote here, it was a little difficult for me at first, but I kept going. It felt so good to be doing some kind of physical activity with my body for the first time in months, but I was still tired and weak and unable to do much of anything. I attended yoga classes sporadically through the holidays, but as the new year rolled around I decided that I was ready to step up my game a bit.

As part of our membership, each member of the family received one free session with a personal trainer. We were able to choose whether we wanted an orientation visit or an actual consultation with the trainer about our fitness goals. I choose an orientation visit, but ended up consulting with the trainer about my situation and what I wanted to accomplish.

It quickly became clear to me during that first meeting with Greg that working with him for more than one session was something that could benefit me and that would give me some clear direction and fitness goals. So I signed up for more. I told him during our first session that I needed to build my strength back up and that I eventually wanted to be able to run a 5K in October of this year. He told me that he could have me ready to run a 5K by April of this year. I was doubtful since I have never, ever been a runner, but I humored him and began working out.

Since January I have been working with Greg on a weekly basis. He has designed a program for me to help me build strength and endurance. I am doing some weight lifting and walking (and running!), as well as taking some various fitness classes. I am simply amazed at what all of this activity has done for me and at how my body is responding. Physically I no longer feel like a cancer patient, and every day I get a little bit stronger. I am training to walk in the 3 Day in August and to run in the Susan G. Komen 5K in October, and I am also training to run in a 5K this April.

Last April my brother and my nephew ran in a local annual 5K race. The rest of my family met him and his family afterward for breakfast and my dad took pictures of all of us that morning. It is haunting for me to look at the pictures of myself from that day because two or three days earlier I had first discovered the lump in my breast. On the morning of the race, I hadn’t told anyone at all about it except for the receptionist at my doctor’s office when I called in tears to make an appointment. When I look at those pictures of myself today, I can see in my face that I was completely preoccupied with the fear of what that lump might turn out to be.

This year—almost exactly one year later—my family is planning to meet on that same race-day Sunday for breakfast after the race. This year, though, I will be running in the race with my brother and his son and my three children. This year I will be thinking about the lump at breakfast, but I will be thinking about how far away I am from it now. I will be thinking about how each step on the treadmill and on the road takes me one step further away from breast cancer. Crossing that finish line in April will be, for me, a symbolic continuation of my journey far, far away from cancer.